Philosophy of Riding: choosing a bike

Buying that first bike has a lot of philosophical underpinning to it.  Do I go with the swiss army knife of bikes, used by the Navy Seals themselves?  Or do I go with a road specialist with ungodly dexterity?  What I ride dictates how I ride.  A dedicated road bike offers a very different experience to an enduro.  To KLR or to Ninja, that is the question.

I should add, that I have always loved Suzukis, the GSX-R 750 was my dream bike when I was younger, and the Gladius is exactly the kind of naked bike that I like. I’d been kinda hoping my first bike would be a Suzi, perhaps a Vstrom, but they are hard to find used!  I was originally going to get a new KLR (only $6300+taxes brand new 2012), but I’m just getting out of five years of car payments and would like a break, so I’m going all in on a used bike.

The KLR? 

  • A big bike with a comfortable driving position for me (a big, six foot+ guy)
  • Can go just about anywhere – handy for a guy who lives in the country (dirt roads)
  • This particular one has only 1200kms on it
  • Lets me practice many different riding environments.
  • as sensible as a bike choice can be

The Ninja?

  • road specialist bike with a wide range of performance (won’t outgrow it quickly)
  • an emotional choice that feels fantastic
  • dexterity (ungodly braking and acceleration) would get me out of trouble
  • able to handle all aspects of road driving well (KLR isn’t highway/high speed friendly)

Ups and Downs

The KLR is far away in Milton – meaning I’m spending a couple of hours just to go see it, and it might not be as nice as the pictures suggest (which obviously weren’t taken recently).  The Ninja is five minutes away in Fergus.

The Ninja has low miles (only 8000 miles), but the KLR has fantastically low miles and is 2 years newer.

The Ninja has been repainted and has been dropped at least once.  The KLR has been dropped too, but they aren’t trying to hide it. The Ninja appears to be in good working order, but it’s also had a long list of owners in its short life (I’d be #6 or 7?).  This is a Ninja with a shady past.

The KLR owners aren’t responding to communications and are far away.  The Ninja owner was immediately available, has been completely upfront with the bike (even pointing out blemishes) and lives around the corner (I taught his cousin English).  He has put half of the 8000 miles on the bike.

The KLR is a bit more expensive, and obvious (nothing hidden).  I don’t know what its history is.

The Ninja has charisma… and I’ve had a habit of wanting to save orphaned machines (my long and storied car history is full of examples).  I sympathize with the Ninja, I want to give it a good home.

The KLR would let me learn on and off road riding, all in one bike, though it wouldn’t do either thing as well as a purpose built bike would do – it’s a swiss army knife.  The Ninja is a scalpel, very good at what it’s designed for, but it isn’t going off road.

Any used vehicle has secrets, the KLR might be the lemon, the Ninja the safe buy, but the Ninja’s history, paint job (which is peeling and showing the much nicer blue underneath) and history suggest that it might have been abused.  That just makes me want to save it more.

Either bike would let me get my hands dirty maintaining and modifying it.  Both Ninja and KLR appear to be easy to work on.  They insure for the same amount (it’s all about engine size and they are within 2cc of each other – though they couldn’t be more different bikes).

If there’s a sure choice, it’s lost on me.  I’m looking for an emotional relationship with my first bike.  The come hither looks, lovely sound and mysterious history of the American Ninja suggest she’s trouble; I just don’t know how much trouble I’m looking for.


When the Navy Seals want a bike, they go to the KLR!  The Navy Seals!

The Ninja can do this!!

… and if not that, then at least this:


We worked out $3800 safetied – it needed a new rear tire and some reflectors.  It also needs fluids changed, some TLC and the fairings taken off and painted so that the bike doesn’t look like a stunned sixteen year old’s idea of exciting.

Nexx MaxiJet X40 Modular Helmet

The new Ninja 650 has a nice white option. High visibility and going with the Star Wars Imperial pilot theme I’ve been going for.  It’d nicely match up with my dream helmet and the black and white gear I’m going for.  I suspect my juvenile, flat black ninja will become ivory white shortly.

I’m hoping to have it in the garage in a couple of days.  In the meantime, I found the manual online and hopefully will know my way around the bike when it gets here.

Lobo Loco Water Is Life Summer Rally

We just spent a delightful dam day riding north and west from where we live looking for water themed locations for this year’s Lobo Loco all-season Water is Life rally.

If you find that your riding is a bit aimless, or you’re always showing up at the same places over and over, a long distance rally is a great way to break those habitual rides.  You get a theme and some specific targets, but you also get some special monthly targets in this rally.  It runs from May to October, so you have lots of time to get points.  You can set up rides with intention and ride as hard as you like.  Some people go and go if they’re all about the points (and have a lot of free time).  I’m more about the exploration and photography opportunities, even more so If I’ve got a pillion along, but you can do it however you like.  My son and I have done this a few times now, and my buddy Jeff and I have had some epic rides, but this time it was all about my wife and I getting points and spending some quality time together.

For May the water specific theme was dams, so we went looking for the damned things in our area.  It’s amazing what you can find when you ride with a purpose.  Only fifteen minutes from home we were stumbling across secret Mennonite fishing holes at the Woolwich Dam, and twenty minutes later chatting with dreadlocked sports bike riders on the Conestogo Dam causeway.  We bumped into a number of riders on the trip and always suggest they look up the rally as a way of extending their riding destinations.

Further north we stopped just past Harriston (after getting a photo of their water tower), and got lunch at The Red Caboose.  If you’ve never had an Ontario chip truck lunch, this would be a great place to start.  Everything is grown in the fields around you (including the beef).  It’s what you’d expect to pay for a burger and fries, but this’ll be the first time you’ve ever had something this fresh.  Some fancy burger joint in Toronto will but sriracha on it and charge you five times as much for something that tastes half as good.  The fries actually taste like potatoes.  We would never have stopped there had we not launched ourselves on this exploratory rally adventure.

With our stomachs full of goodness, we continued north.  After a water tower hit-and-run in Clifford we eventually found ourselves in the place where government cuts made the water kill people: Walkerton, Ontario.  We got to the Walkerton Heritage Water Garden only to discover it wasn’t running – a local walking by told us they weren’t turning it on due to new cut backs.  Thousands got ill and e Coli in the water killed seven, and now a similar government has cancelled the memorial to what their predecessors did – I imagine they’re thinking this is best not remembered.  The irony runs thick, unlike the water in the monument.  The local said the politicians all spent more time making sure they weren’t liable than they did actually trying to solve the problem.  Walkerton is now a vibrant community that has bounced back from this tragedy, but the damage runs deep, and more cuts are coming.

We left the park in a sombre mood and headed through the lovely town before striking out east on Highway 4.  Another water tower hit and run in Hanover and we were on our way to Durham and the ride south to home.

I’m sure I’ve passed through Durham before, but have no memory of it.  It’s a pretty little town in rolling Niagara Escarpment country.  Alanna eagle-eyed the Garafraxa Cafe on the main street and we pulled in for a caffeine boost to get us home strong.  Things looked promising with an Italian coffee machine that looked like a Vespa scooter and a proprietor who knew what he was doing with it.  It ended up being one of the best Americanos I’ve ever had.

We pushed south to Holstein Dam while picking up water towers in MoFo and Arthur.  Our last stop was the Shand Dam that created Belwood Lake just down the road from our home in Elora.  To maximize points you want to get your bike in the photo and have signage and the dam itself in one of the two photos.  I find the Ricoh Theta 360 camera handy for doing this because it grabs everything at once, but many others just use their smart phone camera and get a lot more points than I do.  Naming conventions on your photos are important too – you lose points handing things in the wrong way.  Having Alanna along really helps with this as she actually reads the instructions.

this point we’d been on the road for well over six hours and were ready
to go put our feet up, fortunately our circuitous route took us in a
big loop back home:

All told we think we cracked a thousand points on this ride, and discovered all sorts of strange little spots we’d have otherwise missed.  The Water is life Grand Tour full summer rally is running from May to October, so you’ve still got tons of time to sign up and give it a go.  If it grabs you, Lobo Loco is also running more intensive weekend and one day rallies throughout the season.


Lobo Loco Rallies on Facebook:
Like the page and see what’s going on – there is a vibrant community of riders involved with this.
Lobo Loco Homepage:
Includes the intensive weekend events as well as this season’s grand tour.  You can sign up on there through RideMaster – the same group that handles Iron Butt Rallies (if you want to get really serious).


Some dammed stops on this year’s Grand Tour Rally:

Stop One:  Woolwich Dam & Reservoir
43°37’21.3″N 80°33’51.9″W

Getting signage with the name on it counts for points!

We went a bit overboard with this one.  It was our first stop, it was a lovely dam surrounded by Mennonites fishing and we wanted to make sure we got the required things in the photos (and they are many!)…

You will need to have the following in order to collect points:
A) A photo of the dam itself
B) A photo of signage indicating the name of the dam, or a photo indicating the name of the town the dam is in

– We will accept a “Welcome To”, City Limits, or Town Hall sign.
C) The GPS coordinates, approximate street address, or nearest cross street to the dam
Your motorcycle MUST be in at least one of the 2 photos.

You will receive the highest points ONLY for whichever you achieve for each individual dam:
99 points – motorcycle with the dam (which I think we got with the bottom one with me standing with the bike in front of the gate)
66 points – motorcycle with the dam signage

33 points – motorcycle with the town signage

… but I think I like the one with us leaning over the dam more.  Sometimes the photographer gets in the way of the rally requirements.

#loboloco Water is Life Rally 2019 Summer Woolwich Dam #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

We found a squirter at the Woolwich dam!

Stop 3:  Conestogo Dam
43°40’32.4″N 80°42’56.0″W

#loboloco Water is Life Rally 2019 Conestogo Dam #motorcycle #rally #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Gotta get that signage in for maximum points.
Stop 8:  Holstein Dam
44°03’36.0″N 80°45’29.4″W

 … that was a buggy one.  Dam in photo, check, rally flag, check, bike in photo, check!

from Blogger

Iceland Travel Photography

From a ten day stay over in Iceland on our way to the UK this past summer (July, 2017).  We travelled for three days around the south east travelling as far as Vik and then did a week with family friends up and over the north coast to Akureyri and beyond and then back to Reykjavik.  All in all it was well over 2500kms in ten days.

Photos shot with the shiny new Canon T6i Rebel with a variety of lenses.  360 photos done with a Ricoh Theta.  The full album is here.

The black sands of Vik.

A sea of puffins.



The mid-Atlantic ridge.  Þingvellir, the viking parliament.
Viking Rafting on a glacial river (taken with a little, old waterproof Fuji camera that died shortly thereafter due to the incredibly cold water).

12:35am (half an hour after mid-night – this was as dark as it ever got)


Climbing Hverfjall

Reykjavik street art

Humpbacks in the Arctic Circle by Húsavík


Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull

from Blogger

Do you ride the horse, or does the horse ride you?

The idea that technology will somehow make teaching easier (or superfluous) makes me sad… and angry. The idea that it might be making us inferior to previous generations drives me right over the edge.

I’ve been reading Nick Carr’s The Shallows.  If you’re a techie-educator, you might disagree with him, but the Pulitzer prize panel didn’t.  Neither did the Laptops & Learning research which demonstrated that students retain less information about a lecture when they have a digital distraction on their laps.  Carr’s argument that digital tools teach a plastic brain to reorganize in simplistic ways has resonated with many people, usually people that didn’t like digital options in the first place.

There is a big backlash against this single minded approach, which I think was addressed at the recent ECOO conference.  If students aren’t able to recall details from a lecture, I think I have to start with the sage and the stage.  The idea of passive learning is rapidly losing traction as the most effective way to teach.  Countries that cling to the idea (usually as a cost saving measure and to try and adhere to standardized tests) are tumbling down world rankings in education.

A teacher who talks at their students for an hour will view laptops in their class as an invader who fights them for their (not so) captive audience’s attention.  If you want to accept digital tools into a uni-directional, passive classroom environment, they are going to disrupt the learning.

Several of my students came up to me today and asked me how to perform a function in imovie (we’re editing videos we’ve been working on for three weeks).  I told them both that I wouldn’t show them.  Following the sage logic, I should have given them an in-depth 20 minute lecture on how to add pictures to credits, and then chastised them if their attention ever seemed to wander to the imacs in front of them.  Instead, I suggested they look at the help information, and then go out into the wild west of the internet if they were still lost.  I not only wanted them to resolve their own (relatively simple) learning dilemmas, I wanted them to feel like they had solved them themselves.  Within ten minutes they both had figured out what to do without being spoon fed the details; they owned that information.  For the rest of the period they were showing other interested parties how to do it.

If I had saged that whole thing, digital tools would have appeared to be a detriment to thinking and learning; nothing but a distraction.

The other side of this is the idea that teachers no longer teach, they simply facilitate, like trainers on a bench.  This usually plays to the ‘technology will make my life simple’ crowd, and it isn’t remotely true.  To begin with, many students haven’t learned to use digital tools in productive ways.  When they turn on a computer it means hours of mindless, narcissistic navel gazing on Facebook.  Students in my class are expected to use the computer as a source of information, a communication tool and a vehicle for artistic expression.  They aren’t going to be the players if they don’t even know the game.  I have to model and learn along side them, I have to demonstrate expertise on the equipment, and more importantly, expertise as an effective, self-directed learner.  If I do this well enough, I can eventually step back, but I’m more the weathered veteran on the bench good for a few more pinch shifts when I’m really needed, than I am a towel jockey.

A good teacher challenges, and  then is able to recede, but even that recession is a carefully modulated choice that balances student ability with student independence.  This is never going to be anything but a challenging dance that you will always be leading, even if you’re not necessarily in front.  We CANNOT assume that students know how to use digital tools effectively, any more than we can assume they will intuitively grasp band-saws, or nail guns.

If you’re into tech in education because you think it’s an easy way out, it’s time to realize that there are no short cuts, and that your job will constantly change, and you better be mentally lithe enough to keep up with it, or else the digital natives will use the tech in the most simplistic, asinine ways imaginable, and Nick Carr’s Shallows will become the truth.